Hounds of Shiv a is a treasure house of tales with impassioned, heroic
acts of sacrifice, devotion and service in the lives and times of the
Nayanmars - the sixty-three Shaivite saints who were exemplars of
bhakti. Kannappa gouges out his eye to heal Shiva's wound;
Punitavati renounces her youth and beauty to follow the Lord as an
emaciated ghoul; Siruthondar sacrifices his own son at Shiva's
command; Iyarpahai gifts his beloved wife to another man;
Samandhar raises a boy from the dead; Poosal builds an intricate
Shiva temple in his heart.
But the book's hero is Lord Shiva, who assumes myriad disguises to
sport with his devotees, blessing and testing them. Filled with
astounding miracles, Hounds of Shivais an untold tale of the Blue-
throated Lord and a feast for the mind and soul.
Preetha Rajah Kannan is the author of Shiva in the City of
Nectar, an enthralling collection of stories based on the
revered Tamil text, Thiruvilayaadal Puranam and Son of
Shiva, about the warrior-god Kartikeya, commander-in-
chief of the heavens and epitome of wisdom and valour.
She is also the editor of Navagraha Purana, a translation
of the eponymous Telugu work on the mythology of the
nine planets, by celebrated author V. S. Rao. Kannan has
contributed extensively to newspapers and magazines, such
as The New Indian Express and The Express School Magazine.
A homemaker and a mother of two boys, she lives with her
family in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
Sekkizhar stood spellbound at Chidambaram, the
heart of the universe and the abode of Lord Shiva as the
Cosmic Dancer. The poet breathed in the fragrance of
the drooping yellow thillai blossoms that wafted in from
the surrounding mangroves. Vedic chants resonated
in the temple's Hall of Gold, melding with the music
of celestial veenas, the trumpeting of elephants and the
roar of the nearby waterfalls. Through a kaleidoscope
of light and sound, Sekkizhar watched Lord Shiva's
Ananda Tandava, the Dance of Bliss, weaving into
one vibrant strand the universal rhythms of creation,
preservation, destruction, illusion and liberation.
the holiest of Shiva's shrines. Shiva is worshipped here
as the embodiment of the primal element, space.
Chidambaram is located at the centre point of the
earth's magnetic equator. It is, therefore, celebrated as
the "lotus heart of the universe:' Chidambaram is also
known as "Thillai," because it was surrounded by thillai
mangroves in the past.
His dance concluded. Shiva stood poised on one leg,
the other raised as a symbol of moksha or liberation.
His serene gaze travelled over his spellbound audience,
from the heavenly hosts led by Indra to the ecstatic
bhutaganas with their cymbals and gongs. His eyes
melted in tenderness as they came to rest on the group
closest to his heart - his Hounds.
The Hounds of Shiva, or ayanmars, stood bare-
chested in simple loincloths, holy ash blazing across
their foreheads and strings of rudraksha beads adorning
their necks and arms. These men and women, hailing
from different classes, castes and trades, were united
by their all-consuming love for Shiva. Exemplars of
devotion, they had spent their lives spreading the
message of service and renunciation through the land
before reaching the Lord's lotus feet. Now, arms folded
high above their heads, they gazed upon Shiva with
adoration. Potsherd or gold, rain or sunshine, adversity
or fortune - all were insignificant in their eyes. The
Lord was their only reality. They paid homage to him,
chanting in unceasing chorus:
'Namah Shivayah! Namah Shivayah! Namah Shivayah!
His heart swamped by tidal waves of bhakti,
Sekkizhar exclaimed, "I will weave a garland of poems
for the Lord by singing the glory of his Hounds!"
Seated in the Chidambaram temple's thousand-
pillared hall, Sekkizhar contemplated the blank palm-
leaf manuscript before him. Suddenly overwhelmed
by the magnitude of his undertaking, he thought,
I am unworthy ... I am just a greedy dog, foolishly trying to
lap the vast ocean dry.
The poet folded his hands in reverence, lifted his
eyes to Shiva and prayed, "Lord of Dance, be my muse."
Shiva stood before him, a hand extended in blessing.
The Lord smiled and dictated:
, Ulakellam unarnthu otharkku ariyavan ... '
'The all-encompassing being who is beyond
comprehension and expression ... '
Sekkizhar took up his stylus and commenced his
magnum opus with Shiva's immortal words.
**Book's Contents and Sample Pages**
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